Sierra road work can create traffic headaches

06/18/2012 12:00 AM

06/17/2012 8:14 PM

Summer is the season for road trips and road work, and the challenge is to keep one from interfering with the other.

Interstate 80 travelers encountered an unexpected traffic jam Wednesday night near Emigrant Gap.

One motorist reported that the backup west of Truckee about 9 p.m. seemed more typical of a Southern California freeway than a mountain highway, saying it took about two hours to travel three miles.

Dennis Keaton, a California Department of Transportation spokesman, said the agency had received a number of complaints about delays that occurred that night during construction on the Emigrant Gap project.

Work to reconstruct the roadway with new concrete slabs on a 10-mile stretch of the highway requires reducing travel lanes from two lanes to one in each direction.

In an effort to ease daytime travel, Keaton said, Caltrans is doing the Emigrant Gap work at night.

Wednesday night's lengthy delay occurred after a couple of fender-bender accidents in the construction zone, he said.

"It happened with one lane available and no shoulder width, and they had to wait for tows to get the vehicles out of the way," Keaton said.

Caltrans recognizes the inconvenience to travelers Keaton said, but added, "The work really needs to be done."

The roadway has been severely damaged by weather as well as the wear and tear caused by heavy 18-wheelers.

The $167 million project involves the repair of 43 lane-miles of highway.

It includes improving drainage, and installing new sediment and debris collection systems.

The work is expected to be completed in fall 2013.

For another project, this one on Highway 160, traffic will be detoured for 60 days due to maintenance work on the Isleton Bridge.

Beginning today and continuing through Aug. 17, the bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic.

Officials said the schedule was revised to avoid conflict with Isleton's Cajun Festival and to reduce the effect on public school schedules by doing the work during the summer recess.

The work is part of an $8.4 million project to repaint three Sacramento Delta bridges.

The Steamboat Slough Bridge south of Courtland was completed in November and the Paintersville Bridge, also south of Courtland, was reopened on May 4.

Detours will be in place during the Isleton Bridge closure.

North and southbound motorists are advised to plan ahead and allow for additional travel time.

For updates on state highway conditions, including lane closures and California Highway Patrol incident reports, see http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov.

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